Aeon reopens riot-hit store in China, announces name change

Kyodo, JIJI

Aeon Co. fully reopened its ransacked Jusco store in Qingdao over the weekend and chose the occasion to announce a total rebranding of all its stores in China.

Haruyoshi Tsuji, president of Aeon’s Chinese subsidiary, said Saturday that all of its Juscos will be renamed Aeon on March 1. Aeon did the same with its Jusco stores in Japan in March 2011.

“We lost many things during the sad events of September, but your enthusiasm for reopening the store has given us courage and hope,” Tsuji told the staff before Jusco Huangdao reopened for business. He also told them to bolster community ties in the major seaport, which serves Shandong Province.

The store was ransacked by protesters Sept. 15 who were angered by Japan’s nationalization four days earlier of the disputed Senkaku islets in the East China Sea. Beijing and Taiwan fiercely dispute the sovereignty of the isles, which they call Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.

The store took about ¥700 million in damage, including broken refrigeration facilities and shelves. Most of it was covered by insurance, Aeon officials said.

The reopening was kicked off by a lion dance while employees handed out free cabbages, which are believed to bring good luck in China.

At the news conference for the reopening, Tsuji vowed to step up corporate citizenship efforts in areas that host its stores.

“The risks (of attack) will not decrease unless Aeon stores become truly indispensable to their communities,” he said.

Although the Chinese unit has participated in social activities, such as by helping plant trees at the Great Wall of China, the attack on Jusco Huangdao made it clear that Aeon’s corporate citizenship efforts have been woefully insufficient, Tsuji said.

A 42-year-old woman who lives nearby welcomed the reopening, praising the store’s wide range of goods and frequent discounts.

A man passing by said that though he usually shuns violence, it is important for Chinese to demonstrate their love for the nation.

Despite the damage, Aeon continued to pay its 370 or so employees at the store, which partially reopened in early October.

“Since the attack, the supermarket has received many inquiries and requests from local customers about quickly resuming operations,” Aeon said in a statement. “Supported and encouraged by such sentiment, employees at the store, together with those of the Aeon group, made their utmost efforts toward repairing and reopening for business.”

Treating the Jusco Huangdao reopening as a “fresh start,” the Aeon group intends to launch discount campaigns at all of its Chinese outlets in December. Aeon runs 36 Juscos across China and Hong Kong.

To attract more customers, Aeon said it also plans to open 10 new shopping malls in China by 2015.

Among other Japanese retailers, Heiwado Co. has reopened all three of its riot-hit stores in Hunan Province.